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Raptors News

Pre-game news & notes: DeRozan plays, Nogueira and Valanciunas sit, Siakam starts

Of all the teams to be down centers against, the Warriors actually aren’t that bad.

Things are not going to be as bad Wednesday as it once appeared they may be. The Toronto Raptors are down a pair of centers as they visit the defending champion Golden State Warriors, but they’ll at least have DeMar DeRozan in the lineup. That means they’ll be able to give the Warriors an honest attempt at an upset, something they’ve done moderately well with in the recent past.

Converting on those good efforts has been a different story. Dating back to the 2005-06 season, the Raptors are 4-19 against Golden State. They haven’t won in Oakland since an 84-81 victory in February of 2004, and they haven’t beaten them anywhere since March of 2014 in Toronto. The final scores of recent games have been indicative of the level of competitiveness – the Raptors have lost by 10, six, three, and five over the last two years, an average margin of defeat of six that’s at least better than Golden State’s average (they outscored teams by 11.6 points per-game last year and 10.8 the year before that). Close is good. Close is fun!

Speaking of having fun, Steph Curry apparently does so whenever he plays the Raptors.

The game tips off at 10:30 on Sportsnet One and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.

Raptors updates
The news from shootaround that DeRozan is good to go is a relief. I know some wanted the team to play it cautious in a game they’ll be in tough to win anyway, but that’s a tough sell to a player and to a team that likely wants to see how they measure up. It also signals, bigger-picture, that DeRozan’s thigh bruise isn’t much to be concerned about. There’s an extra off day coming on the weekend, too. Breathe a sigh of relief.

Lucas Nogueira is not good to go, however, meaning the Raptors are down two centers. It has to be disappointing for Nogueira, who has consistently dealt with minor injuries in his four-year quest for role certainty. As a rookie, a hamstring issue cost him most of training camp. In his sophomore campaign, he was expected to battle with Bismack Biyombo for the backup center position but was again injured in camp. When an opportunity opened up later that season, he played two great games and then sprained an ankle. Even last year, his best by far, saw him win the backup center position in camp only to sprain an ankle in the team’s final preseason game, ceding the role temporarily. Now, with an opportunity to play well and make the backup center spot a conversation again when Jonas Valanciunas returns, Nogueira will be missing time. He’s a good player when he’s on the court. That remains a challenge for him.

It opens up an even bigger opportunity for Jakob Poeltl, too. Poeltl’s played three solid games so far and looks even better than he did in spot minutes a year ago. There’s a tall task ahead Wednesday, either starting opposite physical pest Zaza Pachulia or coming off the bench against smaller Warriors groups. Starting Poeltl would seem to make the most sense given Golden State’s own rotations, but Dwane Casey could also opt to slide Serge Ibaka to the five right out of the gate. It’s tougher to match up with Golden State’s powerful staggered units that way, and rebounding could be an issue, but the team might consider it their best defensive option. In that scenario, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright, OG Anunoby, or even Pascal Siakam could jump into the starting lineup, the latter being an option if Casey still doesn’t want to mess with the second unit.

Check back before tip-off for starters.

UPDATE: Pascal Siakam is starting, per Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun. That slides Serge Ibaka to center and maintains the bench group. It’s a nice chance for Siakam to get some minutes and show off his defensive versatility, though it could cost the Raptors in rebounding against Golden State’s bigger starting lineup. It’s a reasonable choice, given Siakam’s energy and defense, and the dearth of perfect solutions. The Siakam-Ibaka frontcourt is one that’s made sense in theory for a while, they just haven’t been in the rotation at the same time much.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Norman Powell, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Bruno Caboclo
C: Serge Ibaka, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira
TBD: None
905: Malcolm Miller, Lorenzo Brown

Warriors updates
All’s well in Golden State, with one player likely to be inactive dealing with an illness that hasn’t been updated because, again, he’d be inactive anyway. They run 13 deep and have played as such already this year. They’re very good.

PG: Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston
SG: Klay Thompson, Nick Young, Patrick McCaw
SF: Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Omri Casspi
PF: Draymond Green, David West, Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney
C: Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, (Damian Jones)
OUT: None
TBD: Damian Jones
Santa Cruz: Chris Boucher, Quinn Cook

Assorted

The line
The Raptors opened as 13-point underdogs and that line has only nudged to Warriors -12 with confirmation that DeRozan would play and Nogueira would sit. The over-under jumped from 224.5 to 228.5. Let’s party.

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